“Who is the LORD, that I should heed his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5: 2).
Who could possibly forget Yul Brynner’s portrayal of Pharoah Ramesses in the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments? His portrayal of this self-absorbed egoist with a heart of stone is just how I picture Pharoah written about in the Book of Exodus. Is there a message for us today?
Scripture is the inspired word of God. In his book, The Father Who Keeps His Promises, Scott Hahn says Scripture is God’s long love letter to us (Pg 10). Have we forgotten that our Heavenly Father calls us to His loving arms? The Bible calls us to remember. Our familial relationship with our Creator was severely damaged as a result of original sin. Paragraph 397 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church sheds light on this. “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command.” That is precisely why Biblical stories like the Exodus story continue to reverberate throughout the ages. In our hearts, we do not truly know the LORD.
Do you know the LORD? In Hebrew, the word “know” is translated as “yada,” which is a term that implies a covenant relationship between family members (Hahn, 65). God wants us to know Him as our loving Father. But do we? It says in the Book of Exodus that Pharoah did not know the LORD. The Egyptians did not know the LORD. The Israelites did not know the LORD either. After 400 years in bondage, even God’s chosen people did not know the LORD. Moses is sent by God to free His chosen people not just from slavery, but also from their pagan idolatry so they could once again know the LORD.
Pharoah will not let the people go. In Exodus 7-12, the LORD sends ten plagues. We read about things like the Nile River turning to blood, flies swarming, livestock dying, and darkness falling upon the land. Prior to sending the plagues, the LORD said to Moses, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you” (Exodus 7: 4). But why would God harden the heart of the Pharaoh? Doesn’t he want to save everyone? Yes! He does! The plagues are meant to serve a pedagogical purpose for all the nations including us today.
After each plague, we see that either Pharaoh’s heart hardened or that God hardened his heart (Exodus 7-14). Pharoah would not listen. He did not know the LORD. Are we any different today? Have you encountered any modern day Pharoahs? We see ourselves as the commander in chief par excellence of our own life. We think we are in control. We do not know the LORD. We are Pharoahs who drive fancy chariots down roads paved with gold and back-breaking sweat in a material world where our worth is solely determined by what we own or what we wear on our back. We give no glory to God. We give credit to ourselves, whom we worship above all. We do not know the LORD.
There truly are too many Pharaohs and not enough Saints. We are not in control and all glory and honor should go to the LORD. The plagues hit us hard and often when we don’t know the LORD. If you are going through troubling times, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I know the LORD?” Do you have a loving relationship with your Heavenly Father? That is the pedagogical purpose of the plagues! God wants to be in a familial relationship with us. He wants to be our loving Father.
When the plagues of life hit us, will we harden our hearts or will we fall on our knees to pray and listen to the LORD? Let’s embrace the plagues in our life for what they really are? They are invitations from God to grow in relationship with Him so that we may truly know Him. All we need to do is pick up our cross and carry it into the loving arms of our Heavenly Father and ask Him for the grace to know Him.